PLDT and coach Rald Ricafort sealed an expected semifinal showdown with Petro Gazz with a 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-16 victory over Choco Mucho on Thursday while paving the way for the Creamline-F2 Logistics clash in the other Final Four pairing in the Premier Volleyball League All Filipino Conference at the Philsports Arena.
But the High Speed Hitters needed to endure the Flying Titans’ tough stand before pounding out the four-set win for the needed tiebreak points (3) to clinch the No. 3 seeding after they finished tied for second with the Angels and the Cargo Movers at 6-2 at the close of the single round elims.
Defending champion Creamline lorded it over the nine-team field with a 7-1 (win-loss) card with Petro Gazz nailing the second seeding as early as last Tuesday with 19 tiebreak points. PLDT took the No. 3 spot with 18 points and F2 Logistics settled for fourth with 16 points.
With the Flying Titans in game-mode despite being out of the semis race, the High Speed Hitters virtually worked for every point to carry out their mission with Mean Mendrez leading another strong PLDT windup with 21 points.
“We needed to finish strong, kasi ito yung magiging basehan sa semis. We have to gain the confidence we need for the next round,” said Mendrez, who also drew solid backup from four others who finished with double-digit outputs.
“But we must work harder and try to keep our composure,” added Mendrez, referring to their keenly awaited clash with the Angels at the start of the best-of-three semis tomorrow, also at the Pasig arena.
Mika Reyes shone in the middle with 18 points, Dell Palomata and Jovie Prado fired 12 hits apiece and Michelle Morente added 10 points, the last wrapping up the two-hour, 12-minute encounter marked by long rallies and superb digs and saves to delight of the crowd.
Kat Tolentino and Isa Molde each produced 14 points while Bea de Leon added 13 markers and Maddie Madayag and Des Cheng scored eight points apiece for Choco Mucho, which surprised PLDT with a fiery first-set performance but wavered in the stretch in the next two before losing steam in the fourth.
“Lesson sa amin ‘yung slow start, kailangan matuto, kung kaya naman kontrolin ang game, dapat ma-control talaga,” said Ricafort on his wards’ struggle against the strong-starting Flying Titans.
“Lahat kami nagre-remind sa isa’t-isa na kumuha kahit isang point lang kasi ayaw namin ma-pressure. ayaw namin isipin na matatalo kami sa set. So nakatulong talaga ung reminder,” said Reyes who anchored the team’s big third set closeout.
Against the Angels in the semis, Ricafort expressed confidence dealing with his former team again, saying: “At least nakalaban na namin sila before. Maganda yung laban, so we’ll review that game again.”
PLDT edged Petro Gazz in five sets ast Feb. 23.